Tutor feedback – Assignment 3

I was pleased with the comments received from my tutor for assignment 3, it is good to know that I am moving in the right direction. I have focused this post on areas where development is needed:

  • Find more of a narrative to link my subjects together.
  • Be careful when cropping off the top of a portrait
  • Ensure there is enough border around my prints
  • Be careful on colour choice – the green ink on the boat was a bit too bold when considered against the Nan Think about presenting work that all hangs together harmoniously.
  • The misaligned version is interesting and my tutor agreed that it was worth pursuing in future – something that I will do when I return to relief in assignment 5.
  • Also revisit the experimental mark-making test sheet to explore using text and to exploit the tendencies of the lino to crumble and crack when overheated.
  • When come to present the Nan series – mount together with window mounts.
  • No Need to redo statement of intent – just update as and when required.
  • Add images into bibliography and use separate headings for books, articles, websites etc.

Project 10 – Experimental Relief Prints

Initial experiments with different surfaces

surfaces1 After reviewing a number of books regarding relief printmaking I realised that it is possible to use almost any surface as a printmaking substrate. For the first experiments I used watersoluble inks and newsprint paper on a range of surfaces:



Funky foamExif_JPEG_PICTURE

This was easy to indent with a range of tools.

corrugated1Corrugated cardboard

I was pleasantly surprised by the effects achieved in this print, there was a dreamlike felt to the print. I was able to get interesting textures by piercing and scoring the card.

Old crumpled Christmas cardsxmas1

This too was surprisingly successful. The writing showed up very clearly and the crumples made lovely organic marks.


Cover of old notebookcover1

Again this worked well; the textured surface of the surface created a canvas-like quality which I thought would work well with the idea of time passing.

Fimo modelling clay & old plastic erasers

Fimo modelling clay & old plastic eraser

An old eraser

This was very small so I had to use my smallest linocutters, I was surprised how easy it was to carve and quite liked the result.


‘Fimo’ modelling clay


Arrangement of fimo printed blocks

I used some small pieces that I had to experiment with.

Rolling them into small shapes they reminded me of the small blocks that are used by wood engravers.

I looked at the work of Hiro Serisa for inspiration and produced a further study.

Further design: Text & memories

I spent some time working with different ideas in my sketchbook. The dying tulip idea was not coming together so I changed tack and thought I could exploit the ability to write on the cardboard as a design element in the next set of prints.

I tend to appreciate the formal qualities of text in art. Looking at the work of Mark Tobey and Cy Twombly was a helpful starting point. I liked the way that they both utilise calligraphic marks that are often obscured or illegible through the layering process, exploiting the formal qualities of the text, whilst the meaning remained hidden. Tobey’s piece ‘City Radiance’ was particularly affecting and I chose to work with using this as a starting point.

text nan1Considering my Nan there were a number of poems and also a entry from my journal which have connections to her, which I chose to use. My aim was to produce a print that could incorporate these layers of words to replicate my streams of consciousness and memories.

Initially I thought I would write backwards on the card so that the writing was legible, but then decided that it looked a bit laboured and didn’t have the energy and speed that I needed to communicate my rapid multi-layered thought process. As Tobey’s and Twombley’s writing was indiscernible I felt that it perhaps didn’t matter that it was back to front and perhaps it as better that way. If text within an artwork is too literal, then it can become a distraction, so it is best to keep things oblique anyway.

plates1I created some blocks from Christmas cards, funky foam and old notebooks by writing into them and also distressing them with blades and other tools. The funky foam did not print particularly well the lettering was a little soft but the other two were more successful.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI wondered if it would be possible to overprint some of the less successful Nan reduction prints with a thin transparent layer printed from these blocks. After a quick go on one of the really unsuccessful versions I thought that would definitely be worth a go.

Using various of mixes of magenta, green, white and extender ink I overprinted a number of the Nan prints. I was surprised and pleased with the results. The layer of overprinting created a feel of old photographs which completely fitted with my theme.

The crumpled card had a crease through it which either lay across the eye or the mouth dependent on which way around I printed it. I really liked this distressed effect. It creates a sort of tension for the viewer having part of the image obscured like this. It reminded me of some of the work I have been looking at of Gerhard Richter and Ginny Grayson, where the initial images have been distressed and deconstructed.

From these intial prints I could sense a larger series starting to emerge. I liked how the initial image was beginning to dissipate and transform. I wanted to let this process evolve further and so created 3 more plates based around the same subject.

Corrugated cardboard

Initially I did this the wrong way around, but luckily it is a very quick method so was able to repeat the process.

Whilst working, I found it quite a difficult process. I felt that piercing through the image of Nan was initially quite difficult – uncomfortable and destructive.

Funky foam shapes

I cut out some shapes to create a silhouette and then indented them with the apple corer to create a range of interesting marks.

nan text pinkFor the background I wanted to use a different method of text. Recent research into Paul Coldwell’s inkjet prints were the source of inspiration and so I decided to manipulate the images of the original text into layers on GIMP (a free photoshop program); playing with transparency and colours, then printed it onto a sheet the right size for the block.

I felt this was quite successful. An empty space filled with words, memories and my associations were quite relevant – emphasizing absence and presence.

Etching lino

I had been reading about the process of etching lino by several artists. Bill Woodrow and Emily Johns had used it to great effect in their work. I liked the painterly quality it gave to their prints and wanted to try it. I found very detailed notes on how to do it here.

I didn’t have any etching stop-out or hard ground so decided to use candle wax for the resist, which I melted and then painted onto the block.

I followed the instructions to make the etch using caustic soda and wallpaper paste and because I wanted a deep etch I decided to leave it overnight.

In hindsight this was perhaps too long because the etch was extremely deep – almost 2 milimetres in places. This meant it was very difficult to print via the hand burnishing method and I didn’t get all of the half tones that I wanted.

The thought of not being able to use this block was too frustrating, so I decided instead to print it over one of the prints from the book cover block. This worked well. I liked the physical and sculptural quality from this print. It was very far away from the original piece and had transformed into something more abstract.

Presentation as a series

Looking at all of the work that I had completed for this project I could see that it was clearly working well as a series. Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Diptych’ came to mind and even though this isn’t absolutely to brief, I decided to use my Nan seriescreativity and take a risk in submitting all of them together. Personally, I feel they work much more successfully as a group of 9 prints, with an underlying narrative rather than if I just chose 3 of them.

I took photos of each and arranged them on my PC into a pleasing composition, when I get to assessment stage I intend to display them onto one sheet of card.

A title came to me that I thought was fitting with my theme of absence and presence: ‘How can you be here…when you are not here?’


What went well?

  • Continuing with the theme of Nan and developing the prints further has created a more cohesive working practice. It certainly helped me get more into a creative flow.
  • Exploiting the different effects achieved from the different surfaces was largely successful.
  • The process of using old pieces of ephemera to make the plates has relevance to the theme of loss and presence. I was tempted to use newsprint for all of the work in reference to Michael Fullerton’s prints but had hesitations about how that may be received. I do however like the fact that I have used a variety of different materials, including pink tissue and fabric for the panels, as they have add various levels of meaning and associations to the work. (i.e. Nan was a dressmaker, pink was her favourite colour etc.)
  • It is a risk to send all of these pieces as my tutor has expressed a requirement for me to stick to the numbers of prints as listed in the course material. But I feel strongly that all of the panels are much stronger together, presenting a more successful narrative, as one series than on their own.

What was challenging?

  • Etching lino – Using hazardous materials was a source of anxiety, and cleaning up without a specific sink was a bit of a problem.
  • I left the solution on for too long so the bite was too deep and the lino had curled through the cleaning process which meant taking a print was quite difficult.


  • I would like to etch lino again in the final part of the course and learn from these mistakes.
  • When I get to the final part of the course I would like to experiment more with using a number of colours on one block too.

Research point –contemporary printmakers

I researched a number of printmakers, my notes are shown in the slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

List of Images

Fig. 1:Munter, G. (1908) Portrait of Wassily Kandinsky [Colour woodblock] At: http://www.wikiart.org/en/gabriele-munter/portrait-of-wassily-kandinsky-1906?utm_source=returned&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=referral. (Accessed on 12 April 2016)

Fig.2: Munter, G. (1906) Aurelie  [Colour woodcut] At:  http:oseculoprodigiosi.blogspot.co.uk. (Accessed on 12 April 2016)

Fig.3: Kilpper, T. (2000)The Ring: Bella Burge  [ Woodcut on fabric] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kilpper-the-ring-bella-burge-p78541 (Accessed on 12 April 2016)

Fig.4: Kilpper, T. (2000)The Ring: Alfred Hitchcock [ Woodcut on fabric] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kilpper-the-ring-alfred-hitchcock-p78542 (Accessed on 12 April 2016)

Fig 5:  Le Brun, C. (1998) Motif Light [Woodcut] At: http://paragonpress.co.uk/works/motif-light (Accessed on 12 April 2016)

Fig 6: Le Brun, C. (2015) Seria Ludo [Woodcut] At: http://paragonpress.co.uk/works/seria-ludo (Accessed on 12 April 2016)

Fig 7: Woodrow, B. (2000) Beekeeper #2 [Etched lino – 2 blocks] At: http://paragonpress.co.uk/works/beekeeper (Accessed on 13 April 2016)

Fig 8: Woodrow, B. (2000) Beekeeper #5  [Etched lino – 1 block] At: http://paragonpress.co.uk/works/beekeeper (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Fig 9: Johns, E. (2007) The Rose and the Nightingale  [Lino etching] At: http://emilyjohns.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/nightingale-colour-e1457881228310.jpg (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Fig 10: Johns, E. (2007) 26 May 1908  [Lino etching] At: http://emilyjohns.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/May-black-white-e1457880999464.jpg (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Fig 11: Bugler, J. (2014) Homs [Reduction Linocut] At: http://www.jessbugler.co.uk/gallery/syria/1 (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Fig 12: Bugler, J. (2013) Nightwatch IV  [Reduction Linocut] At: http://www.jessbugler.co.uk/gallery/nightwatch/4 (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Fig 13: Coldwell,P. (2013) A Mapping In Blue [Screen print and laser cut relief] At: http://www.edinburghprintmakers.co.uk/shop/ep-print-editions/3404/a-mapping-in-blue (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Fig 14: Coldwell,P. (2002) Border I [Inkjet] At: https://artinprint.org/article/paul-coldwell-a-layered-practice-graphic-works-1993-2012/ (Accessed 13 April 2016)

Experimental Mark Making on lino


I used a variety of tools:

toolsCutting implements: Knife, Pizza cutter, Saw blade, Bread Knife, Compass, etching needle; Impression making tools: Spanner, Apple corer, Pliers, Fork, darts, awl, keys, screw drivers. Dremel engraving tool.

Initially I found it hard to make impressions with the differing tools into the lino. Getting a hammer and banging them into the block helped somewhat.

I wanted to see how mark could be made in a piece of softcut vinyl also, this was difficult to achieve anything substantial as the material kept self sealing itself.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAfter printing my first attempts, I could see that some marks showed up well but most did not with any great definition.

I decided to go back to the block and warm it under a hot water bottle to make the material more pliable. This made the mark making a lot easier but the lino crumble when I cut it with a blade.

For inking this time I wanted to be a bit more experimental. Using the instructions in the course handbook, I made a number of different sized pounces from cotton wool material and string. These I use to ink the block. It was difficult to ascertain the right amount of ink to use, as I was mindful that too much ink would obliterate the fine lines in the block.

The first image was too light so I added further ink and got a better effect. I liked the atmosphere from this technique.

Next I tried to rainbow roll the block. Due to not having a roller wide enough to cover the whole block in one pass, so I fudged the process by rolling different colour inks on each end then blending them in the middle with the pounce. This meant the middle area was a bit thinner and didn’t print as evenly but I liked the effect and is something I may return to at the end of the course.


What went well?

  • Created a wide range of interesting marks.
  • Using different inking methods added interest and created atmosphere.
  • In terms of colour using complimentary pairs created harmony.

What was challenging / didn’t go so well?

  • The fine lines did not print coherently.
  • The lino was hard to penetrate with these tools, meaning I had to warm the lino. Heating it too much led to crumbling effects in places.
  • It was difficult to ascertain how much ink to put on the block when using the pounce and pretty impossible to get a completely even print. That said, I think that the effects of under-inking in places leads to more atmosphere and feeling which can be exploited.


  • I would like to explore some of these mark-making effects and inking in the next set of prints.

Reduction linocut – Nan print

Design / composition stage

Further to the last attempt, I chose to spend a lot longer playing with designs in my sketchbook before starting the carving process. This meant I knew exactly what I was doing right from the outset and produced a much more satisfactory outcome.

In order to be efficient with my time I gridded up a photo and drew an original version, which I then photocopied a number of times allowing me to refine and work over the top with colours.

As I was working there were many memories and associations of my nan that started to filter into my psyche. I remembered hearing that she had worked for boots at one time hand colouring black and white photographs. This technique creates a rather strange atmospheric effect which I thought might be interesting to explore.

The results were not particularly pleasing but from this exercise I knew that I wanted to use a very subtle palette with very limited saturation. An overpainting in gouache led to an interesting outcome which I chose to use as a basis for my print.

I was unsure how to develop the background so to be efficient I decided to scan the image in and have a quick play with different ideas on the PC in GIMP. I decided the polka dot version worked the best out of these.


I really liked the painterly effect of the brushmarks from my little study and wanted to replicate these shapes in my print. I had been looking at the linocuts of Jess Bugler recently and particularly her Nightwatch series. I found her process very interesting. She made clay sculptures of the militia men and then photographed them in bright sunlight, these were then translated into linocuts. The resultant prints had a very sculptural, material quality that I had not seen before in print. I wanted to use this same process but using the painterly marks that I had made.

unspecified3I scanned my painting in and flipped it then printed in black and white. I traced around each shape for each relevant colour and transferred these to the blocks.


I found the black marker that I had used for the dark areas came through when I printed the pink colour. This wasn’t so much of an issue as I knew it would be covered up with further ink but it is something to remember for the future.

Whilst I worked I referred closely to the photograph of my nan rather than the initial painting. This was because I found that upon reflection the painting was not a very good likeness and I wanted to refine it as I cut. This on one hand worked to get a better likeness but on the other hand I did make some mistakes and so needed to repair the block several times with wood glue and pieces of lino. This is the stressful part of reduction lino – you can’t go back.

I chose to use a lot of extender with my colours as I wanted to emphasize the passing of time and depict that faded look. I felt that layers of transparent ink allowed me to achieve this effect quite successfully.

Through the course of printing the layers I found the more that I cut away that it was easy for ink to get into the unwanted areas. To counteract this I used a baby wipe after each inking to remove these areas. Some ink remained but most was removed so that it wasn’t too distracting on the print.

My initial sketch had 4 layers but when I added a further layer it was a step too far and ruined the atmosphere of the intial print, I therefore took the decision to keep it with three.

Final print - 3 layers

Final print – 3 layers

I tried many different types of paper to print on: Japanese papers, thin tissue and also fabric. The last two materials related to the ephemeral nature of the subject matter that I was trying to capture. Also there was a link to my Nan by using fabric reflecting that she also worked as a dressmaker.

To print onto fabric I had to use a different method. This involved placing the block upside down on top of the material and then using a hammer to hit the lino down. I found the resulting print was quite patchy and faded but actually I like this effect and feel it is in keeping with my initial intentions.

Registration worked well using my mountboard corners, however I noticed on the last layer that there was a slight overlap on the bottom even though the top was in alignment. To find out how this could have occurred I posted on facebook, and was really grateful for the support and response from various members of the group, I wanted to share a few comments here:

“I noticed it is fine at the top so your lino has stretched with cutting and printing which makes registration impossible – this happens to lino once most of it has been cut away” (student 1)

“my painting tutor said to me that a painting should look like a painting not a photo. I think your Nan print lives as a print and the fact that the overlap shows is authentic to the medium! It really doesn’t detract from the image at all, in fact I think it adds to it” (student 2)

Bowing to their greater technical knowledge, I am relieved that actually this is just something that happen when printing lino in reduction and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. I like what Hilary says about how this creates authenticity in the print and immediately makes me think of Walter Benjamin and my initial intentions. I did not set out to create a rigid, perfect reproduction, instead I wanted to embrace the various idiosyncrasies of the medium to produce prints that retained the aura of painting, so this minor blemish is in keeping with these concerns. This has also made me consider the next exercises. I would like to develop this last print into a series of more experimental prints which exploits variation, difference and imperfection.

Evaluation summary

What worked well?

  • Successful outcome in terms of colour and nostalgic / melancholic atmosphere.
  • Strong composition
  • In keeping with intentions of depicting fading time.
  • Printing onto fabric and using transparent layers of ink works well.

What was challenging / not worked so well?

  • It was a challenge to keep a clean print after cutting away large portions of the lino. It took a few runs to realise that it was a good idea to wipe the lino with a baby wipe after each inking and prior to printing. Luckily I had produced a large number of editions initially; otherwise I would have not achieved the result I wanted.
  • The overlap at the bottom edge was a frustration to me, but as discussed in the previous post – I had received feedback from other students with technical experience who explained the lino had stretched and there was nothing I could have done – its just one of those things that can happen through the reduction process and its good to embrace the imperfection.


Thinking about the idea of imperfection and authenticity has reminded me of Walter Benjamin’s criticisms of reproduction and printmaking. I would like to explore this and take this print further in project 10 when I produce more experimental prints.